We need another band of boys in the thrall of the 80s like we need another Dominic Masters, but Kentucky's VHS or BETA** bring more to the table than a vacant pastiche. Since the disco-funk instrumentalism of their 2002 debut Le Funk, guitarist Craig Pfunder has decided to step up and add vocals to roughly half the tracks on this, their follow-up. While VHS have always shied away from the frontman mentality, Pfunder's vocals give the band the magnetic centre that they were lacking, and with a voice like his, it would be a shame if he were to keep his mouth shut. Coming in somewhere between Simon Le Bon's fey inflections and Robert Smith's romantic lilt (principally on current single 'The Melting Moon'), Pfunder serves up insistent, anthemic melodies Brandon Flowers would be proud to call his own. 'You Got Me' is the album's pinnacle, all muted handclaps and a chorus that's so uplifting and warmly nostalgic, it could easily replace Simple Minds as the closing track on Breakfast Club as Judd Nelson punches the air.
It's during VHS' instrumental workouts that Night on Fire falters. The Daft Punk retro-isms are all too apparent: 'Forever'_ and 'Nightwaves' in particular with its fuzzed-up, wah-wah driven guitars could easily be a sister song to the French duo's 'Aerodynamic'. Where the Secret Machines can sustain a nine-minute track with their pulsating prog, closer 'Irreversible' slips into unremarkable background music. But what really lets this collection down is not the quality of the songs - everything about their tunes is well considered and slickly executed - but the production. Live VHS or BETA's delivery is impeccable and effortless and their shy, between-song banter disarming, particularly in comparison with the confident synergy they radiate while they play. On record they sound stripped and thin, the tunes sterile. Best buy a ticket to the show then.
7Kim TB's Score